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Smart casual or black tie, what do you prefer when you’re on vacation? Norwegian Cruise Lines changed everything with the introduction of the “Freestyle Dining” concept on May 28, 2000 on the Norwegian Sky. Since the beginning of passenger shipping, even when a sailing to cross the Atlantic might take weeks, the price of a ticket included accommodation as well as food. As the age of ocean liners moved into the 20th century there was some experimentation with specialty restaurants which provided an opportunity for the cruise lines to make more money as well as for passengers to show off their wealth by ordering extravagant meals. These restaurants were usually decorated in such a way to evoke a specific ambiance like an open air café or a winter garden.
Moving on to the modern cruise industry, and the introduction of “Freestyle Dining” suddenly passengers had the freedom to eat where they liked, as well as when they liked and with whom they liked. This also brought on a fairly comprehensive change in dress code requirements. Prior to this introduction there were 2 seating times for evening dining and guests were assigned to a table with other guests they may or may not have met before. Dinner dining dress code required more semi-formal attire and on formal nights it was all evening gowns and tuxedos.
Most cruise lines now allow a range of casual but neat styles of dress in the evenings but still have one or two formal nights where guests are encouraged to go all out and truly “dress for dinner” and specialty restaurants might have different dress code requirements than main dining. There is also always the buffet dining option which pretty much only requires sufficient clothing for modesty and footwear. Oh, and then there’s the ice bar….
So while there is now much more flexibility on most all cruise lines when it comes to dress, it’s a good idea to check before you book to make sure you are comfortable and prepared for what you will be expected to wear onboard! – René
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